Online forum threads have sprawled to thousands of messages detailing what some Zune users are calling "Zune 2K9," a reference to the Y2K bug based on the as-yet-unconfirmed belief that the freeze is a time- or calendar-related programming flaw.
Others are referring to it as the Midnight Meltdown. A handful of YouTube videos uploaded on Wednesday attempt to document the problem. One of the better titles is "The Day The 30 G Zune Stood Still."
"My 30 GB Zune froze out of sleep mode," complained one Zune user. "It wasn't on the charger or connected to my computer. I turned it and rebooted, which isn't all that uncommon when I've turned it off. However, this time it didn't complete. I wonder how Microsoft is going to provide a fix for this because my computer doesn't recognize it as connected when I plug it in."
Microsoft has confirmed that its 30-GB Zunes are crashing and said it is addressing the issue.
"Early this morning we were alerted by our customers that there was a widespread issue affecting our 2006 model Zune 30-GB devices (a large number of which are still actively being used)," Microsoft said in an e-mail. "The technical team jumped on the problem immediately and isolated the issue: a bug in the internal clock driver related to the way the device handles a leap year. That being the case, the issue should be resolved over the next 24 hours as the time change moves to January 1, 2009. We expect the internal clock on the Zune 30-GB devices will automatically reset tomorrow (noon, GMT). By tomorrow you should allow the battery to fully run out of power before the unit can restart successfully then simply ensure that your device is recharged, then turn it back on. If you're a Zune Pass subscriber, you may need to sync your device with your PC to refresh the rights to the subscription content you have downloaded to your device.”
The company added that customers can stay informed by monitoring the support page at Zune.net.
“We know this has been a big inconvenience to our customers and we are sorry for that, and want to thank them for their patience,” the company said in its statement.
The incident is unlikely to help Microsoft gain ground against Apple's iPod, which accounts for about three-quarters of the digital music player market. And it may undo Microsoft's effort to restore consumer confidence in its hardware following problems with its Xbox 360 in 2007. That year, the company took a $1 billion charge to cover the cost of repairing its problem-plagued game consoles.
The article was updated on Dec. 31 to include new statements by Microsoft.